On October 25 and 26, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the California College of the Arts are partnering once again to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph that touches upon the topics relevant to the summit’s theme: Art, Place & Dislocation in the 21st Century City. This posting is by Megan Hoetger, graduate student in Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.
In his 2012 article, Robert Bedoya writes: “What I’ve witness [sic] in the discussion s and practices associated with Creative Placemaking is that they are tethered to a meaning of ‘place’ manifest in the built environment….” Further, Bedoya asserts, “its insufficiency lies in a lack of understanding that before you have places of belonging, you must feel you belong. Before there is the vibrant street one need an understanding of the social dynamics of the street – the politics of belonging and dis-belonging at work in placemaking in civil society.”
What happens if we begin to understand place not just as stabilized and visually manifest site, but as a complicated network of non-visual cues and codes that would seem to choreograph our movement in certain spaces? Would seem to choreograph our very sense of belonging?
The word placemaking has become far-reaching in its deployment—it can at once be mobilized by city officials to ‘talk strategy’ for a ‘vibrancy plan’ (city revitalization, public engagement and interaction), by private business to promote commercial interests (a festival, a restaurant district, a mall), or by artists or cultural producers aiming to create a sense of community through the establishment of shared spaces (alternative galleries, co-ops, and multi-use centers). The undertones of Richard Florida’s creative class can also be heard echoing in the term—maybe hidden somewhere in that narrowed gap between the two conjoined words, place/making. Bringing that gap out indeed helps to bring out the gaps and the fissures in vision’s making of place-ness.
I come back to the notion of choreography now as a means to propose an alternative scene for the making – that scene being the moving itself, or the structures and organizing principles (economical, technological, and so forth) that control movement. Whose bodies are moving when and where? And how does the organization of that movement, visually manifest but never stable enough to produce a clear image, make a place? How does it make a place that welcomes some and bars others?